Learn all about Streng Brother Home, inspired by Eichler mid-century in Greater Sacramento.
The Streng Brothers, Jim and Bill, built about 3,800 homes (3,000 modernist homes as well as almost 1,000 traditional homes) in the Sacramento Valley between 1959 and about 1989. The majority are modernist architect, Carter Sparks, designed mid-century modern homes in enclaves dotting the valley: Davis, Woodland, Elk Grove, Carmichael, Citrus Heights, Fair Oaks, Orangevale, Natomas, etc. Several of the more well known include River City Commons, Evergreen Commons, Shelfield Oaks, Willhagin Estates, Williamson Ranch, and South Overbrook.
The Streng Brothers seemed to have had an almost intuitive grasp of where the valley was headed, and what was needed. The enclaves are not sprawling, endlessly repeating, cookie-cutter tracts – they’re neighborhoods. Some, such as River City Commons & Evergreen Commons, even include private parks that foster a safe and family friendly place to create that all-important sense of community. These homes were affordable, and the Streng Brothers fought for and received FHA approval – a legacy that is still profoundly shaping these lovely neighborhoods. Many are still filled with teachers, professors, and a variety of other professionals. Several have neighborhood associations with an online presence – filled with photos, upcoming events, residents’ stories, and even favorite recipes. Although categorized as mid-century modern (a.k.a. MCM, Postwar Modern, or California Modern), deserving of historic note and preservation, these homes truly were forward looking. They fit today’s “modern” lifestyle seamlessly.
The Streng Brothers worked with Carter Sparks to create a home uniquely suited to the hot Sacramento valley: interior atriums domed with tinted acrylic to block heat, exposed aggregate flooring enhancing cooling, open living areas allowing free flowing AC, and lots of natural sunlight without the “hotbox” effect. These homes provide a private retreat from the hectic 21st century world, with front exteriors that are set back and substantially closed-off from the road, and back exteriors with lots of windows and sliders that tend to open into beautifully landscaped backyards and patios. According to The CA Modernist blogger, David Weinstein – The brothers, who were raised in Pennsylvania and educated at Dartmouth, came to California in the 1950s where they worked with their ‘Uncle Phil’ Heraty and in 1957 he quit. Several subdivisions were underway, and he offered these to top members of his staff. “Jim and I drew Sacramento,” Bill says. They were building “typical garage-dominant Sacramento Valley” ranch-style homes, Bill says. But the economy was tough. “We perceived that if we did what everybody else was doing, we were not destined to do well,” he says . . . They began thinking modern. Then Jim ran into Carter Sparks at a class for expectant parents they were attending with their wives. Sparks was a young architect but was already known as Sacramento’s modernist. He had been building custom homes in the Sacramento area since the mid-1950s.
Wanting to build homes that were contemporary and different than the typical ranch-style homes of the times, brothers Bill and Jim Streng found inspiration in the sleek homes that developer Joseph Eichler was building in the Bay Area and Sacramento.
Most of the Streng homes were tract homes, although they collaborated on individual custom and semi-custom homes as well. In many ways, Streng Homes Inspired by Eichler, resemble Eichlers. They have the same clean lines, low-pitched roofs, open floor plans, walls of windows, and simple front facades found in Eichler homes. Where Strengs differ is how they accommodate the hot summers found in the Sacramento area. While Eichlers were built with no AC and unprotected atriums, Streng homes were made for the heat with air-conditioning and interior atriums domed with tinted acrylic that helped block the sun. In addition to single-family homes, Bill and Jim Streng developed what they called half-plexes, which are smaller attached homes that were designed with the same Eichler-style exterior found in the single-family Strengs. The half-plex homes share a common wall, but not necessarily a similar floor plan.
Streng homes are found in close to 40 subdivisions throughout Sacramento and Yolo Counties. In Yolo County, more than 400 Strengs were built in Davis and nearby Woodland. The majority of the Streng brothers’ homes were built in Sacramento County, and can be found in Sacramento, Carmichael, Citrus Heights, Fair Oaks, and Elk Grove.There are about 3,000 Streng homes in the Sacramento area, and I just finished appraising one recently. I have valued quite a few Streng homes through the years since they show up in many local communities. You may be wondering what in the world a “Streng” home is, so let me break it down in a nutshell. A Streng home is a mid-century modern (MCM) home built by the Streng Brothers and designed by Carter Sparks. Strengs have a modern feel to them, lower pitched roofs, high windows, few windows in front, skylights in many cases, and they often have terrariums too. Strengs were influenced by Bay Area builder Joe Eichler.